Urea’s various applications?

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Urea is commonly used in plant fertilizers, resins and plastics, cosmetics, and even gasoline. It is made from concentrated mammalian urine and has a crystalline structure. It is also used in livestock feed and was first created synthetically by Friedrich Wohler. More than 90% of the world’s production of urea goes to fertilizer-related products.

There are several uses for urea, but it is perhaps most commonly found in plant and crop fertilizers; it is also present as an ingredient in many different resins and plastics, and is sometimes added to cosmetics and consumer products such as cigarettes and even gasoline. The compound is usually made from concentrated mammalian urine. The chemical process by which it is extracted makes it completely sterile, and in most cases it has a crystalline structure that resembles coarse salt. It has a number of smoothing and adhesive properties that manufacturers of all types of products find valuable and is particularly valued for its high nitrogen content. Adding it to livestock feed can be an inexpensive way to add nutrients that animals might not otherwise get.

History and bases of use

Urea was first observed by French chemist Hilaire Rouele. It is a very important part of the metabolic system in humans and most animals and its primary function in these environments is as a transporter of waste nitrogen. German chemist Friedrich Wohler was the first to create it synthetically, thus proving that an organic compound can be made from non-organic materials. Today, synthetic urea is composed of ammonia and carbon dioxide in which ammonium carbamate is dehydrated under conditions of high heat and pressure.


The most common application of urea is as a type of fertilizer. More than 90% of the world’s production of the substance goes to fertilizer-related products. When used in this way, it usually takes the form of granules or crystals. These can be distributed manually by farmers or spread with the help of agricultural equipment. It is also often used in fertilizer solutions, as it is highly soluble in water and often packaged within potting soil and potting mixes.

Resins and plastics

This compound is also often used as a feedstock in the production of commercial resins and adhesives. The nitrogen bonds it contains tend to be very strong and can really help strengthen a number of glues and tapes. Manufacturers often activate these bonds by dissolving the crystals in formaldehyde. The resulting mixture can be used as an industrial adhesive, such as in the manufacture of cardboard boxes; it is also present as an ingredient in many cast plastics. In some cases it could also be used as a coating for materials such as fabrics and paper.

Consumer goods

A number of consumer-oriented and cosmetic products also incorporate this substance. Hair conditioners or tooth whitening products often use this, for example, usually as a way to help the product stay thick in the tube or bottle. Dish soaps also sometimes include it in at least a trace amount to help keep the emulsified ingredients from separating.

Facial cleansers sometimes incorporate the substance as well, as it can help moisturize the skin. Some makeup products blend it to give a creamier, shinier finish once applied. Environmental activists in many places are often quick to point out that it can be used in an environmentally friendly way to reduce fuel emissions from power plants and diesel engines as well.
Cattle feed

Urea is also sometimes used in cattle and animal feed, particularly in developing countries. It is usually considered an effective feed because it contains high concentrations of nitrogen, which can generally promote the growth of animals. The compound is relatively cheap to produce and doesn’t cost much to transport, two factors that increase its popularity in many parts of the world.

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